Thursday, December 08, 2011

Panic in Oakland County

The Republicans are no longer in a panic. The Governor signed the Power Grab Bill. This will allow the sitting Republican commissioners to redraw their own districts for the election that begins in just a few weeks. The blog below was written two weeks ago.
In an almost unbelievable development, Republicans in the Michigan legislature are trying very hard to wrest control of the Oakland County government system and prevent the possibility of Democrats winning any more seats on the county commission. This very cynical and bald attempt to change the rules at the very end of the game is trying to thwart the wishes of the residents and voters of Oakland County even before they go to the polls next year.

Michigan House Republican Brad Jacobson of Oxford, in the rural northern part of he county, has a bill now going through Lansing that would throw out the bi-partisan way that districts have been drawn and replace it with a new system controlled by the current sitting county commissioners. In other words, current Republican who hold office right now in our county, would get to redraw their own district lines. District lines are often "gerrymandered" to favor one party or the other, or to protect someone who is already in office. They can add areas that favor themselves, and marginalize people from the other party, or minorities, or other groups that may not favor the incumbent.

For forty years, Republicans have controlled Oakland County. They have always been able to draw the district lines to favor themselves, and keep Democrats in the minority, even though Oakland County has become a "swing" county, with an almost even split in elections between Republicans and Democrats.

The House bill, if approved by the Michigan House, Senate, and Governor, would eliminate four Oakland County Commissioners, then allow the current sitting Republican majority on the Commission to REDRAW THEIR OWN DISTRICTS. This of course will allow them to protect their own seats, and almost guarantee each commissioner a seat for life if he chooses so.

And while such changes to reduce the number of commissioners may save money, such changes are usually done by the voters, rather than people in Lansing. Oakland County, by the way, has a surplus of dollars, and the budget is balanced until 2015.

Lansing, of course, is totally run by Republicans today. They control the Michigan House, the Michigan Senate, and the Governor's office. When asked about why he was rushing this through now, just days before Christmas and the end of the year, Jacobsen admitted, today on WDET Public Radio, that he didnt think that Democrats would be very good at running Oakland County if the voters decided to go that way next November.

The interview was not a long one, and the Representative did not have to address the poor performance and dysfunction that has marked his tenure in Lansing.

Residents in Ferndale, Royal Oak, Huntington Woods, Southfield, Hazel Park, and many other cities, urban and suburban areas of Oakland County may as well prepare for another decade of neglect and marginalization from their county government.


At 7:04 PM, Blogger Thomas Gagne said...

Craig, did they give any reasons for the change? How is the group that draws the district lines formed today?

And is Oakland county as evenly-split in its county-issues as it may vote in statewide and national elections?

Assuming the county is evenly split on presidential elections does not mean they're evenly split at the county-level, as is indicated by the democratic minority on the commission, though it is an increasingly narrow margin.

To your, your fellow commissioners, the executive, and the commissioners before you much credit is due for balancing the county's budget through 2015, so in that regard at least, county voters seem to know what they're doing.

At 8:40 PM, Blogger Thomas Gagne said...

Wait a second. According to the Free Press, "Earlier this year -- and for the first time -- Oakland County Democrats controlled the process of redrawing the commission districts, and Republicans cried partisan foul."

Unsatisfied with the response from the appeals court, Republicans have gone to the legislature.

Besides the fact Republicans couldn't stand to let Democrats draw districts, just as Democrats don't want Republicans to.

According to the Free Press, the bill's sponsor said, ".. it is meant to save the county money -- about $250,000 a year -- by cutting four commissioners and some staff salaries."

It seems to me the regular committee responsible for drawing the lines, which is now majority Democrats, should be capable of reducing the number of districts.

Of course, except to increase or decrease their numbers, the need to keep redrawing lines seems a politically self-serving exercise at best.

At 3:24 PM, Blogger Craig Covey said...

Tom, Representative Jacobsen admitted on WDET that one of his reasons for redistricting was to prevent Democrats from possibly getting a majority on the commission, because he did not like some of the policies we have put forward. And cutting the number of commissioners is not what is so wrong here. It is that we the voters should make that decision, not Lansing. BTW, this wont save Oakland County near that best, perhaps $150K per year, after the cost of redistricting again and courts challenges, probably save zero.

At 8:20 AM, Blogger Thomas Gagne said...

Craig, there must be a more rational approach to drawing districts--whether state or county--than the current process that inevitably pits Democrats and Republicans against each other.

The Democrat's crying-foul, without noting they just drew the districts, pretends they didn't tick-off Republicans the first time around.

At 1:35 PM, Blogger Craig Covey said...

We agree, Tom. There can be independent, non partisan committees established to draw districts that are compact, keep boundaries within cities and townships, and do not "meander" to favor one party or one incombent over the other. Some states are doing that now...Michigan as usual is behind.


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